3D printing has been around for over 30 years, and its capabilities have grown exponentially in that time. Once a strictly industrial technology used primarily for prototypes and limited production runs, 3D printing is becoming more mainstream, with applications in various industries from healthcare to manufacturing.
According to Wohlers Associates, a leading additive manufacturing consulting firm, the 3D printing industry will grow from $2.2 billion in 2015 to $12.8 billion by 2025. That’s a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 25.9 percent! This incredible growth is driven by several factors, including falling 3D printer prices, increasing availability of 3D printing materials, and advances in 3D printing technology.
As the 3D printing industry continues to grow, so will the number of applications for 3D printing technology. Below are 10 of the most popular uses for 3D printing.
1. 3D Printing in Construction
One of the most promising applications of 3D printing is in the construction industry. 3D printed homes and buildings are possible, but they’re already being built. 3D printed homes are not only cheaper to build than traditional homes, but they can also be built faster. For example, a 3D-printed home in China was built in just 24 hours! 3D printing is also being used to create concrete reinforcement rods, which are more robust and lighter than traditional steel rods. There are many applications of 3D printing in construction for both commercial and residential buildings. However, one of the challenges facing the broader adoption of 3D printed homes is the lack of building codes and regulations for this new technology.
3D printing is an ideal technology for quickly and cheaply creating prototypes. In the past, companies would have to develop prototypes using expensive and time-consuming traditional manufacturing techniques such as CNC machining or injection molding. But with 3D printing, companies can develop prototypes in-house in a matter of hours, which saves both time and money. However, it’s important to note that not all prototypes created with 3D printing are equal. Some 3D printed prototypes are more accurate than others, depending on the 3D printer and materials used.
3. Custom Manufacturing
3D printing is also being used for custom manufacturing. Thanks to 3D printing, businesses can now create custom products on demand without the need for expensive and time-consuming equipment. It is especially beneficial for businesses that sell products unique to each customer, such as jewelry or eyewear. 3D printing also allows businesses to quickly and easily create replacement parts for products that have been damaged or broken.
4. 3D Printing in Healthcare
3D printing can also create custom implants and prosthetics in the healthcare industry. 3D printing also allows for the creation of 3D-printed organs, which could be effective for transplants in the future. 3D printing can also create models of patients’ organs, benefiting surgical planning. These models are especially beneficial for complex surgeries. You can also watch a documentary on Netflix about a man who received a 3D-printed trachea.
5. Food Printing
3D printing can also print food. While this technology is still in its infancy, it has the potential to change the way we think about food. 3D printed food is customizable to each individual’s taste and nutritional needs. It can create complex or impossible food to make using traditional methods, such as candy with intricate designs. However, it’s important to note that 3D-printed food is not currently safe for human consumption.
Artists are also using 3D printing to create sculptures and other works of art. 3D printing allows artists to quickly and easily develop complex shapes impossible to create using traditional methods. Additionally, 3D-printed art is often more affordable than conventional art, making it more accessible to the masses. However, some artists are concerned that 3D printing will make it too easy for people to create art, devaluing the art market.
3D printing is also being used in education to help students learn. 3D-printed models and objects can be made available to teach concepts that are difficult to understand with traditional methods, such as anatomy. Additionally, 3D printers can help create parts for experiments. And thanks to the low cost of 3D printing, schools can afford to have a 3D printer in every classroom. However, some educators are concerned that 3D printing will make it too easy for students to cheat.
8. Geospatial Mapping
3D printing is also beneficial for geospatial mapping. This application is beneficial for businesses that need to create accurate models of geographical areas, such as for construction or planning purposes. Additionally, 3D-printed maps come in handy for educational purposes. For example, a 3D-printed world map can teach children about different countries and their natural features.
9. Customized Gifts
3D printing can also create customized gifts. Thanks to 3D printing, businesses can now create unique products for each customer. It is especially beneficial for companies that sell personalizable products, such as jewelry or clothing. Additionally, 3D printing can create unique gifts for special occasions, such as weddings or anniversaries. Also, thanks to the low cost of 3D printing, businesses can afford to make these customized products without breaking the bank.
10. Personalized Toys
3D printing can also create personalized toys. Businesses can now develop toys unique to each child thanks to this technology. It is especially beneficial for companies that sell personalizable products, such as dolls or action figures. Additionally, 3D printing can create unique gifts for special occasions, such as birthdays or Christmas. However, some people are concerned that 3D-printed toys will be too expensive in the future.
3D printing is a versatile technology with a wide range of potential applications. It can create models for surgical planning, print food, create art, and much more. Additionally, 3D printing is often more affordable than traditional methods, making it more accessible to the masses. However, some people are concerned that 3D printing will make it too easy for people to devalue an industry like international art. Although, some people are also worried that 3D-printed toys will be too expensive.